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Grace Fellowship Church

A Spiritual Wake Up Call 2

A Spiritual Wake Up Call 2

Hebrews 6:1-12

Grace Fellowship Church

October 21, 2007

Series 3 Sermon 18

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. 9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Introduction

Those of you that are college football fans will understand this statement.  In the middle or toward the end of a game where an inexperienced quarterback has done well for the first time, an announcer or the coach will say this, “He really grew up during the game.”  What the coach or announcer means is that all of the knowledge that the coaches have been trying to pour into this player since he was in pee wee football has finally clicked.  He has matured.  He no longer stays confused during the game.  When the defense lines up in front of him he can see what they are going to do.  When the ball is snapped he pretty much knows what is happening.  He knows where his receivers will be and which one will break off a route if there is a blitz coming.  Instead of everything happening in front of him at 100 mph the game has slowed down for him and he can make the right decisions.  Quarterbacks that we know in the NFL and the Hall of Fame have all gone through this.  Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Brett Farve are all quarterbacks that had to grow up in a game.  Some quarterbacks never grow up and they throw a lot of bad passes that usually end up being intercepted.  Or they get sacked a lot.  A quarterback that does not mature will be a quarterback that stands on the sidelines, holds a clipboard, and calls plays in to the mature quarterback. 

 

Likewise Christians who never grow up or mature are like that.  Life seems to be the most confusing thing and as struggles come they are not able to react correctly.  When life sends us a blitz then as spiritually mature Christians we understand how to step up in the pocket and get rid of the ball before we get hit.  But the confusion that often comes because of immaturity will wreak havoc on our spiritual lives. 

 

Last week we began to talk about the need to press on toward Christian maturity.  If you remember I told you that chapter 5:11 through the end of chapter 6 was a sort of interlude between chapter 5:10 and 7:1.  We are squarely in the context of the writer of Hebrews teaching us about the great High Priesthood of Christ.  Recall with me that in chapter 5:1-10 the writer of Hebrews showed us that because of Christ’s superior priesthood he made the old order of Levitical priests obsolete.  To prefer the old order to Christ’s priesthood would be like getting rid of your mobile phone for one of those old phones that you had to hang on the wall, turn the crank, and ask Sarah to get you the diner.   

 

The writer introduced us to the high priesthood of Christ in chapter 5:1-10 and he will pick it back up in 7:1.  But meantime we have this interlude to deal with.  Last week we saw that Christian obedience in the face of suffering would press us on to Christian maturity.  Christian maturity is necessary in advancing in the faith and coming to understand the richness and glories of Christ. 

 

John Piper has said, and he took this from Jonathan Edwards, that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  One of the ways that we become more satisfied in God and thus Him more glorified in us is to press on toward Christian maturity in spite of the difficulty we may be encountering.  We can not let what the world says and does to us limit the growth that we experience in knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must grow in grace if we will ever experience the joy of our salvation as fully as possible. 

 

The Apostle Paul, after unloading wonderful truths in the Letter to the Ephesians, tells us that we are to press on to maturity.  Listen to Ephesians 4:11-15.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

 

If we will be able to withstand the bombardment of the world and Satan as believers we have got to mature in the faith. 

 

What the writer of Hebrews does in chapter 6:1-12 is two fold.  By the use of irony or overstating something that is true he points to the beauty and magnificence of the faith that has been once and for all been delivered to the saints.  What should take place after you understand these verses is that you are so focused on the absolute magnificence of our faith in Christ that falling away from that faith would be the very last thing on your mind. 

 

Last week I told you that we were going to look at two points in this section.  Let me give them to you again along with what we are dealing with. 

 

PNP

What we have in our text is two key ingredients in the Christian life that will move us on to maturity.  Last week we saw the first which was this point.

1.  As believers we should learn obedience through what we suffer.  (5:11-14)

 

I showed you the connection of chapter 5:8-9 with verse 11 with the Greek word akouw.  Christ learned obedience through what he suffered and because of this became the source of eternal salvation to all those who obey him.  The problem was that the readers of this letter according to verse 11 had become dull of hearing.  The word akouw which is the root word for the words obedience in verse 8, obey in verse 9, and hearing in verse 11 is used as a play on words to catch our attention.  If the hearing of the people had grown dull, then so had their obedience.  The trials and persecution should have pressed them on to maturity by pushing them toward Christ as their great High Priest but instead had driven them toward disobedience and possible apostasy.

 

This morning I want you to see the second point.  That is:

2.  As believers we should learn perseverance through the beauty of our faith. (6:1-12) 

 

Purpose

So the purpose for this passage, thus interlude between 5:10 and 7:1, is to press on the readers and on us today the need to move on toward Christian maturity.  And that is my purpose as I preach this text.   

 

I want you to keep in mind this morning as we move through this text that the writer was not warning against falling away here as much as he was motivating the readers on to maturity. 

 

RPNP

So look with me at the second key ingredients in the Christian life that will move us on to maturity.  Now there is a lot of information here in this passage and we will go through it step by step.  In the process I am going to disassemble some interpretations of this passage that many have.  Hopefully by the end of the sermon you will have detailed reasons why what I am telling you is true. 

 

When you walk into a difficult passage like Hebrews 6, it is best to tread with humility.  Men much better than I have erred here and I understand that I could err as well.  But after much thought, study, prayer, and wrestling with this passage I think I am pretty sure I am correct here.  So let’s dive into the text.  Remember your point.

 

2.  As believers we should learn perseverance through the beauty of our faith.

I want to break this section up into three parts and give you three sub-points to go with the major point. 

The first part will be:

The Beauty of the Gospel

 

Read verses 1-3 with me. 

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

 

First let me tell you how verse one often gets misused.  Look at the very first part of verse one again.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity

Some understand this text to mean that at some point you have to get past the Gospel message.  You have to move on to bigger and better things in the Christian life. 

 

I have seen two interviews this week with Joel Osteen.  He was asked why there was not much “Jesus talk” in his new book which I am sure all of you can’t wait to read.  His response was interesting and I am sure if pinned down he would use this passage as a proof text for what he said.  He said that we have to get past the Gospel and teach people how to live a Christian life.  Now he is not the only one that would say that.  There are many others that would say the same thing.  The problem is that what these guys are teaching that they pass off for Christian living is just the prosperity Gospel that is so prevalent in American culture today.  But what he and others are saying is a lot different than what this text is saying.  In Osteen’s ministry and others like him, the Gospel has been totally forgotten, watered down to the point of non-existence, or just flat out not understood. 

 

Look at verse one with me again. 

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,…

Let me tell you what the writer is not saying here.  He is not saying that we just leave the basic doctrine of Christ and the Gospel and move on to better and bigger things.  The prosperity Gospel that people preach today would have never flown in the first century when people were being killed and persecuted for their faith. It won’t work in the third world where Christians live in a shack and barely eek out an existence.  It only works in America and a few other places.  You might be able to talk an oil sheik into it.   

 

The writer uses an idiom to make his point and we miss this if we are not careful.  He qualifies the leaving in verse 1 by using a very familiar first century idiom.  Look at verse 1 again.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation

These were the words the people involved in construction of buildings would have used.  They laid the foundation and once the foundation was properly laid there was no need to lay it again.  Remember I said there was a misunderstanding. Some think you move past the Gospel.  But really the writer is showing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of all that we do in the Christian life.  The people that he was writing to should have been able to teach the oracles of God and yet persecution had caused them to become dull of hearing.  Chapter 5:11-14 insinuates that the readers already had been taught these truths of the Gospel.  Now the writer is telling the readers that they need to leave working on the foundation and move up in the building process.  The foundation is solid.  Now they need to lay more things on top of that foundation. 

 

What are they to do?  There is something they are to do and something they are not to do.  Look with me at verse 1 again. 

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,

In this process of going on to maturity they are to not do something else.  Look at the rest of verse 1 and verse 2.

not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Notice that the writer tells them not to lay again a foundation and then reminds them what that foundation is.  I want you to understand that this verse is almost as hotly debated as verses 4-6 which we will look at next.  The writer does something amazing.  He leaves no question about what this elementary doctrine of Christ is.  If you notice what he says it has a particularly fantastic order.  Look again at the end of verse 1.

 not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

 

The very first part of the foundation is repentance.  Specifically repentance from dead works in the passage.  There is much debate over what this means.  There is no uniform interpretation and those who see the Epistle to the Hebrews as largely written only to Jewish Christians will say that it had to do with the rituals of Judaism.  But those like me who don’t limit this epistle to just Jews must struggle with this harder.  Repentance is a common theme in the Scripture and it is definitely not limited to those of Jewish descent.  Paul preached repentance in Asia as well as Jerusalem.  John the Baptist preached repentance.  The Lord Jesus preached repentance.  As a matter of fact repentance is the first word of the proclaimed Gospel.  Listen to Acts 20:17-21.

17 From Miletus he (Paul) sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia , how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Here is where the beauty of the Gospel comes in.  No matter if you are a Gentile pagan or a pious Jew consistently practicing Judaism, you both have a common need.  You need to repent of dead works.  It could be the dead works of Judaism or it could be the dead works of self worship where you sin to your hearts content.  Apart from faith in Christ all so called good works are dead works.  This is the doctrine of Total Depravity.  The minute we are born we are in need of repentance.  And so for the writer of Hebrews this repentance is the first part of the foundation of the elementary doctrine of Christ.  Look at verse 1 for the second part. 

not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

For the writer of Hebrews to say faith in God and not faith in Christ is no big deal as some have made it out to be.  Christ used the terms interchangeably.  To have faith in Christ is to have faith in God.  Listen to John 12:44-45.

And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.”

 

There are four more parts to the foundation.  Look at verse 2. 

2 and of instruction about washings,(the word in Greek is the plural form of baptism so the meaning is not quite clear.  It could be John’s baptism for repentance or Christian baptism in general.) the laying on of hands, (No one is quite sure here.  Laying on of hands was done in Judaism as well as Christianity.  Today when someone is ordained there is usually a laying on of hands as a sign of separation. It could have been their identification with the local church.) the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 

 

The point is that the Gospel is a beautiful truth. And the gospel will press us on to maturity in spite of trials and difficulty when we understand it as the foundation for all that we do.

 

The earliest experience in Christianity is repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, becoming part of the family of God, learning about the resurrection, and understanding eternal judgment.   

But we don’t stop with the early truths of our faith.  We press on to deeper truths growing in the knowledge of God.  Paul told the Colossians is Colossians 1:9-11 that he was praying for their spiritual growth and maturity.  Listen as I read. 

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience ; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

 

Now look at verse 3. 

 3 And this we will do if God permits.

The question for verse 3 has to do with what we will do.  Is it laying again these foundations?  Well the writer told us not to do this.  What did he tell us that we are to do?  Look one more time at verse 1. 

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,

And we will go on to maturity if God permits. 

 

So the beauty of the faith, the foundation of the faith will push us on to maturity because of the beauty of the gospel. 

 

The second sub-point is taken from verses 4-8.  I want you to see:

The Beauty of the Conversion Experience

 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

 

I want us to first deal with the pressing issue that is in your mind right now.  It seems that this text points in fact to the ability of a believer to fall away from the faith.  Read verses 4-6 with me again. 

4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

 

Remember I told you last week that the writer was using irony to shock the readers into getting their attention.  Keep in mind that there were possibly some who were part of this church that had already departed the faith.  They had forsaken assembling with the brethren and some had possibly returned to Judaism.  The whole purpose of the Epistle to the Hebrews is to prop up and help a congregation struggling with the persecution and trials that came with faith in Christ and a forsaking of the religious establishment and the ways of the world. 

 

The church in the first century was constantly under attack.  Over and over the world and the Jews would attack the church.  The Lord Jesus promised that Satan would attack the church trying to live out the Gospel in a wicked world.  So when the attacks came it was only natural for the church to be purged.  Perseverance is an imperative in the Christian life.  Listen to Revelation 2:8-11.

8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
9 'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'

 

What we can be sure of as we read the New Testament is that there are true believers and those who profess faith who do not actually possess faith.  And there is nothing that will separate the wheat from the chaff faster than a good strong wind. 

 

So let’s ask and try to answer the question of whether or not a legitimate Christian can fall away completely from the faith.  Lets look at the text in its grammar especially the verbs here. 

Verse 4 says that it is “impossible” to renew them again to repentance.  Impossible is in the emphatic position in the verse because the writer wants our attention there.  Some have tried to make this word mean difficult or hard but its normal usage is impossible. 

 

What is impossible?  In the ESV what is impossible is in verse 4.  In the KJV what is impossible is in verse 6.  In the NASB the impossible and what is impossible is all in verse 6.  The NIV also has what is impossible in verse 6. 

 

From an interpretative standpoint, any time there is such seeming confusion on the part of translations you can bet that it is a difficult passage.  Personally I think what has made this passage more confusing is in the way it has been translated over and over again.  Basically those that do translation often miss what the point of the text is when they carry it over to English.  The NASB claims to be a word for word translation but that is not true.  You can not go word for word because language does not work that way.  It is idea to idea. 

 

So what is impossible?  No matter what Bible version you have it is the act of being restored again to repentance that is impossible.  My verse 4 says, 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance.  Repentance is the first word of the Gospel and therefore these the writer is talking about can not be resaved. 

 

Let’s look at the writer’s description.  Look starting in verse 4. 

 

4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance

1.  those who have once been enlightened,

2. who have tasted the heavenly gift,

3. and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

4. 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

 

Some have made the argument that these terms are not used in the New Testament to describe believers.  But the argument is very weak.  They don’t have to be used anywhere else to describe believers if they in fact describe believers here in verses 4 and 5 which they obviously do. 

 

The grammar of these phrases is very interesting.  All the verbs used are Aorist participles.  This means that these words are describing an event that has happened or could possibly happen.  They are all plural as well so it is something that has happened to a group of people.  They are receivers of grace.  They have been enlightened.  They did not do this themselves.  They have tasted the heavenly gift which is salvation.  They have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the age to come.  Put in one word, these people have experienced conversion.  Conversion in this text could not be worded any more beautifully. 

 

This is our Christian experience.  This is the experience that we sing about.  “I was blind but now I see.  At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away.  My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”  The list could go on and on.  Those who have been converted know what I am talking about.  Especially those who were converted as adults.  You walk around in sin and darkness and all of a sudden the Gospel light comes on and you are changed forever.  The Lord Jesus Christ becomes the most wonderful thought you have ever had.  You cling to Christ for life and now your whole world revolves around serving Him.  The world around you could fall apart and yet you hold tightly to Christ.  Sunday shopping or fishing or hunting or sports have gone by the wayside and you now have the Lord’s Day.  Your life is utterly changed.  You walk differently and talk, act, and think differently.

 

This is what the writer of Hebrews is describing.  It’s like when Paul was in Philippi and met a group of women praying.  Listen to Acts 16:13-14 and hear what Luke records.

And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.  14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

 

From that moment on Lydia’s life was changed.  What about you?  Have you experienced conversion?  It may not have been dramatic like Lydia or some of the others you have heard or read about.  But do you have a heart that desires to know God and to do His will?  If not you need to seek the Lord while He may be found.  You need to seek Him and plead for repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  You can not repent on your own.  You can not have faith on your own.  You can not be converted on your own or by your own will.  You must be given these gifts and the only place for these gifts is Christ. 

 

But back to the text.  We have established that these are indeed believers. They have been converted.  So let’s read the text again. 

4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

 

Now look at verse 6.

6 if they then fall away,

Without going into a lot of detail here, many translators and commentators would translate this verse the way you probably have it.  But Greek rules of grammar do not allow for this translation.  Based on the translation of the previous participles in verse 4 and 5, this participle should not be translated “if they then fall away.” 

 

A much more accurate translation would be “and they fall away.”  Assigning the English word “if” in the text gives the force of the argument as a possibility.  But there is no grammatical reason for placing an “if” in the text. 

 

Let me sum up what the writer is saying.  It is impossible for those who have been truly converted and fall away to be restored again to repentance. 

 

Why is it impossible?  Why can’t they just repent and return to God?  Look at the rest of verse 6.

since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

 

The Greek word for , “they fall away” in verse 6 is very interesting.  It is the Greek verb παραπεσÏŒντας.

I told you earlier that all the verbs describing conversion in verses 4 and 5 were aorist participles.  The first one for being enlightened was a passive participle.  That means the subject of the verb is being acted upon.  The difference between an active verb and a passive verb is this.  An active verb states, “The boy hit the ball.”  To say that in another way and make the verb passive we would say, “The ball was hit by the boy.”  In the first sentence the boy was the subject and was doing the hitting.  In the second sentence the ball was the subject and was being hit.  That is the passive. 

 

The verb παραπεσÏŒντας is an active aorist participle.  It is still plural just like the others.  The difference is it is active and not passive.  The subject of this verb are those who have been enlightened.  Now they are actively doing something and that something is falling away.  This is a conscious action on the part of the one who has been converted.  This is a person who has received salvation and has forsaken it.  It is a willful act of ultimate apostasy.

 

In the context of the Epistle to the Hebrews this could be in the midst of persecution.  It could be that it is in the context of a threat of death or imprisonment.  And the person denies Christ to save his or her own life.

 

It was the Lord Jesus who said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  He said, “Whoever confesses me before men I will confess before my Father, but whoever denies me before men I will deny before my Father.” 

 

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24:9-13:   

9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 13 "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

 

The message of the Lord Jesus Christ to all seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 was to hold on and persevere even in desperate and dangerous situations.  And to deny the Lord Jesus Christ was to commit the gravest of apostasy. 

 

 

So what is the writer’s point or purpose here?  What can we legitimately say here? 

1.  We can not say that this verse indeed teaches that a real believer can lose his or her salvation.  What the Bible teaches us is that God is in control of salvation and those who are His from the foundation of the world will be His throughout eternity.  It was the Lord Jesus Christ who said to the Jews in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

He said in John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 "I and the Father are one ."

 

2.  We can say that the writer is using a hypothetical situation.  I want you to notice the pronoun change.  Look at verse 1-6 again.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.   

The writer switches from 1st person plural to the impersonal third person plural.  In chapter five he uses the second person plural talking specifically to his readers.  He changes in chapter six to place himself in the group that must press on to maturity but then moves away from the personal aspect of his exhortation to the third person in verses 4-6.  Then in verse 9 he goes back to the 1st and 2nd person.  Look at verse 9.

9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

 

So what is the writer’s point?  What is he trying to get across to his readers?  Is he trying to get a reaction out of them?  I believe that the point the writer of Hebrews is making here is not about falling away.  True enough that is in the text.  But I believe that the reaction the writer wants from his readers is utter shock and disbelief.  I think what he wants them to say after they read this passage is this:

“Why would we fall away, why would we deny the Lord Jesus Christ when we have been enlightened, when we have tasted the heavenly gift, when we have become sharers in the Holy Spirit, when we have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and have tasted the powers of the age to come?  What we have in Christ is so much better than even life itself that we know that even if they kill us, when death comes it will have no sting.  It will have no victory over us.  Because we are convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus not death, not life, nor principalities, nothing can separate us from the Lord who has called us out of darkness into life, who has freed us from the dungeon of sin, who is conforming us to the image of Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, who became poor so that we might be rich, who has promised to present us before Him holy and blameless.  Why would we fall away?  Why would we forsake the Master for momentary comfort?” 

How can I say this?  How can I be so sure of this interpretation?  Look at verse 9 again.

9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

 

Let me tell you where most make their mistake in interpreting and using this passage.  Those who believe that people can lose their salvation will often site this passage.  But what they believe is that certain sins or prolonging in sin will cause us to lose our salvation.  But that can not be said about this passage because the sin here the writer alludes to is a total denial of the Gospel and the Lord Jesus.  It is like what Peter said in 2 Peter 2:1.

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

 

If a person who is genuinely converted can fall away it would be for one reason only and that reason is an outright denial and rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.  Nothing else Scripturally would qualify.  Even the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who was in a very sinful situation with his father’s wife was not said to have fallen from grace.  Even though this particular sinful lifestyle was prohibited even among pagans Paul decided to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit would be saved on the day of judgment. 

 

Plus I think we have a qualifier here in our passage.  Look at verses 7 and 8.

7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

 

I think this is an illusion to John 15:1-11 when Jesus describes true salvation in agricultural terms.  Turn there with me.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

 

Plus we have the final sub point that will drive this truth home.  The writer of Hebrews is sure of the conversion and ultimately the perseverance of these people proven by the beauty of the faithful obedience that they have shown in the past. 

The third sub-point comes from verses 9-12.  I want you to see:

The Beauty of Faithful Obedience

9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.

In other words they had risked and continued to risk their lives to minister to other believers.  In the first century world to go to prison was almost a death sentence.  If someone did not provide food for you and water you would die.  And the one who provided that for you was identifying his or her self with you and was guilty by association especially if the crime was being a Christian.  That is why the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 25, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was in prison and you visited me.”  And the sheep on his right asked, “When did we do this?”  And the Lord answered, “If you did it for the least of these my brothers, you did it unto Me.”  Serving the brethren and risking your life to do it is a sign of salvation.  The goats on the left who thought they were believers did nothing but watch their so called brethren suffer and they stood by and saved their own wretched lives.  And the Lord Jesus Christ said that since they neglected the least of these His brethren they neglected Him.  Verse 46 of Matthew 25 says that these will go away into eternal punishment.  

Now look at verse 11 and 12. 

11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

The desire of the writer of Hebrews for his first readers and for us is to have full assurance and to press on to maturity.  And this we will do if God permits.

 

Let’s pray.    

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